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Heavy Breathing in Cats

Heavy Breathing in Cats

Labored breathing in cats is infrequent and can indicate a severe problem. Our veterinarians in Pittsboro explain potential causes of heavy breathing in cats and when immediate medical attention is warranted.

Heavy Breathing in Cats

If you notice your cat breathing heavily, it may indicate a serious issue that requires prompt veterinary care. 

If your cat begins panting or shows signs of laboring in their breathing, start by taking stock of the situation following the criteria we will explain below. 

Although there are situations in which panting in cats doesn't raise concerns, if you have any apprehensions regarding your cat's breathing, it is advisable to prioritize caution and promptly seek emergency veterinary care for them.

Normal Panting in Cats

In certain situations, cats may exhibit panting as a typical behavior. Take a moment to reflect on your cat's actions or experiences just before observing the panting.

Similar to dogs, some cats may pant to regulate their body temperature after overheating or physical activity. Others may pant due to feelings of anxiety. If your cat's panting results from these factors, it should subside relatively quickly once they have a chance to cool down or relax.

However, it's important to note that this sort of panting is much rarer in our feline friends than it is in dogs. So, if you're not entirely sure why your cat is panting, it's worth visiting your veterinarian.

Causes of Heavy Breathing in Cats:


  • Some of the most common asthma symptoms in cats include panting, wheezing, coughing, and increased respiratory rate. While asthma in cats may not be cured, it can be successfully managed with corticosteroids or bronchodilators.


  • Heartworms in cats can cause breathing difficulties. Treatment for heartworm includes supportive care with corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and oxygen therapy in more serious cases. Because heartworm disease can be fatal, it is important to keep your cat on a monthly heartworm preventative medication.

Hydrothorax & Congestive Heart Failure

  • Hydrothorax is a medical condition marked by the accumulation of fluids in and around your cat's lung area. It can lead to symptoms such as increased and fast breathing, heavy breathing, and coughing. Treatment options may involve fluid removal from the cat's abdominal region and the administration of medications to expand blood vessels, enhance heart contractions, and reduce excess fluid.

Respiratory Infections

  • If your cat has a respiratory infection, it can be difficult for them to breathe normally. Respiratory infections in cats often result in labored breathing or panting. These infections typically start as viral and may progress to secondary bacterial infections. Treatment may involve antibiotics to improve breathing. Humidifiers and steam can assist in loosening mucus and clearing your cat's nasal passage.

Other Conditions

    • Anemia, neurologic disorders, trauma, abdominal enlargement, and pain can also cause cats to pant or exhibit heavy breathing.

If you are concerned about your cat's heavy breathing, bring your kitty in for emergency care in Pittsboro today for rapid veterinary care.

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